Zimbabwe Elections

ZANUPF and Emerson Mnangagwa were NEVER EVER going to lose the so-called ‘free and fair’ elections in Zimbabwe this month. ZANUPF would have ensured this, by whatever means.

For the record the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission reported that Mr Mnangagwa received 50.3% of the vote and the MDC opposition candidate Mr Chamisa received 44.4% of the vote, the balance went to a myriad of other candidates. In the Parliament, ZANUPF won 144 seats to the MDC’s 64 seats.

As in all the previous elections in Zimbabwe, the opposition claimed the result was rigged. Right now the MDC say they are going to challenge the result in court. At least six people, ‘rioters’, have been killed by the army and there are a number of MDC supporters in jail ‘for inciting violence’. 

We should all understand the tribal nature of the political conflict in Zimbabwe. ZANUPF is a Shona based movement situated in the eastern half of Zimbabwe. The opposition MDC is an Ndebele organisation based in western Zimbabwe. Historically the Ndebele are relative newcomers to the territory. In the 1830’s Mzilikazi, one of the Zulu King Shaka’s generals, rebelled against Shaka and moved with a large band of followers, initially to the east of what is now Johannesburg. They moved on once the Boers arrived in the mid 1830’s to what is now western Zimbabwe.

The Boers were the vanguard of the Afrikaner people who left the Cape in wagons, in an episode known as The Great Trek, which started in the mid-1830’s. They left the Cape of Good Hope to escape the British, who had ousted the Dutch from the Cape in 1804. They left mainly keep the slaves they owned, which the British had insisted had to be freed. 

The relatively peaceful Shona were no match for fearsome and well drilled Zulus, who took over the western part of what is now Zimbabwe from about the late 1830’s. The Ndebele speak Zulu which is a totally different language from Shona. Even the ‘war of independence’ was fought by two separate factions, the Shona from Mozambique in the east and the Ndebele from Zambia from the north. All the attempts at cooperation between the two parties has always ended in failure.  

The Shona are in a majority in the country and probably always will be. 

Mr Mnangagwa, in order to start the flow of western aid again, will try to persuade the western world that he has reformed by returning a few of the confiscated ‘white owned farms’ to their previous owners. He will also say he is tackling the endemic corruption in the country. He won’t be able to do much in either case, otherwise he will be ousted by the very people who now occupy the unproductive farms and who also benefit from the corruption.

The forceful takeover of the white owned farms mainly benefitted members of ZANUPF. The white farmers had, in a great error of judgement, backed the opposition MDC and Mr Mugabe then decided to get rid of them. The takeover of the farms was fraudulently presented as ‘land reform’. This is nonsense; all Mr Mugabe did was to widen the circle of corruption to keep himself in power. As is obvious there was no reason why Mr. Mugabe would allow any of the white owned farms to be occupied by members of the MDC opposition. There have been reports that many ZANUPF members have more than one farm now.

Again as is well known the takeover of the white owned farms completely destroyed the buoyant agricultural sector in the country. Almost without exception the farms that were taken over became completely unproductive within two years.

There was a programme, funded by the British and American governments, to buy up white owned farms for redistribution to the black majority. This was based on a scheme that was implemented in Kenya as part of the independence settlement there in 1962. The scheme was abandoned in Zimbabwe when Mr Mugabe insisted on personally controlling the funds that were made available.

Mr Mugabe was never a committed democrat, he was always determined to stay in power, come what may, and anything that got in the way was destroyed, one way or another. Mr Mnangagwa is no different. As is well known he was Mr Mugabe’s ‘enforcer’ for the last forty years. Mr Mnangagwa was also personally responsible for organising the massacre of some twenty thousand Ndebele in western Zimbabwe in 1984.  

I have recently been in touch with a colleague whose farm was taken over. When I asked if he would return if the farm was restored to his ownership, his answer was that there was nothing to go back to. All the fences had been torn up and there were no cattle left. He found his old headman living in a hut in what was the garden of the house. The man and his family had reverted to subsistence faming and was growing a few sticks of maize and some vegetables. There was no mechanisation, everything was done by hand.

We need to remember that as in all of Africa the population of Zimbabwe has multiplied hugely since the advent of white settlement. From an estimated three hundred thousand people in the mid-1800’s the population is now some seventeen million and if one adds the four million Zimbabweans who live illegally in South Africa that makes say twenty-one  million. Subsistence farming will never be able to feed that number of people.  

I for one truly wish that all the positive commentary over past months regarding the ‘free and fair’ elections and the reformist nature of the Mnangagwa government were true and that everything in the garden was rosy: I hate to say this but nothing could be further from the truth. Zimbabwe will continue to be a basket case unless the agricultural sector is somehow returned to its former level of productivity, at best, if ever, this will take many years. Also the endemic corruption in the country needs to be eliminated or substantially reduced; this will take a very strong government and many years to achieve.

None of the above issues and particularly the tribal nature of the political scene in Zimbabwe, are much discussed by the western commentariat, although they all understand that what is being said above is the truth on the ground. Western governments and aid donors are all also completely aware of the situation. Any decisions on aid would therefore appear to be very easy-continue the aid boycott.

Unfortunately life is not as simple as that. The Chinese government will be totally on top of the situation as well. The Chinese have never tried to moralise in any way with potential aid recipients and they are quite happy with a bit of corruption, which tends to keep western governments at bay.

So the west has a dilemma. Do western governments accept the flawed bona-fides of Mr. Mnangagwa and his cohorts and start the aid flowing again or do they adopt the high moral stance of the past and leave it all to the Chinese?

I spent most of the first fifty years of my life in various parts of Africa so am well informed.

Guy Hallowes